Presentation of Gender in Mary Shellys Frankenstein Essay

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The author characterizes each woman as passive, disposable and serving a utilitarian function.
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein tells of the evaluation of the problems associated with gender identity via the development of a dreadful monster in a peaceful community. Considering the major characters of 'Frankenstein' which portray the perfect gender duties in those days, it is then quite intriguing that Frankenstein's monster was created and it calls for a thorough research into the societal status of the British in the 1800s.


Female characters like Safie, Elizabeth, Justine, Margaret and Agatha provide nothing more but a channel of action for the male characters in the novel.

They are on the receiving end of actions and occurrences, mostly because they are trying to get back at a male character or make him feel a particular way. Every female character in Shelley's Frankenstein has a unique role to play (Tan).

Let's start with Justine, an inactive and quiet character in 'Frankenstein'. She is exploited by both the Frankensteins and her own family and finally set up as the culprit in William Frankenstein's slaying. Quite unexpectedly, Justine keeps her cool and remains relaxed, an act uncommon with people falsely charged for manslaughter (Tan). According to her, she believes;

"God knows how entirely I am innocent. But I do not pretend that my protestations should acquit me; I rest my innocence on a plain and simple explanation of the facts . . . " (Shelley, 65).

This statement and her relaxed conduct, despite her problem, is a display of passivity and her framing was the event that identified this as the basis of her disposition: "But I have no power of explaining it . . . I am only left to conjecture concerning the probabilities by which it might have been placed in my pocket" (Shelley 66). Therefore, Justine ends up as a quiet and tame causality of events.

Agatha is the succeeding female character. She is the daughter to the cottager, a young girl, and she is the focus of the monster. Her role, due to her caring and peaceful nature, involves a display of compassion and virtuousness. These form the very first discoveries of the monster as he hasn't experienced this level of affection ever before (Haddad). The major act of Agatha which amazes him is her relationship with her blind dad.

"Agatha listened with respect, her eyes sometimes filled with tears, which she endeavored to wipe away unperceived" (Shelley 93).

The character of Agatha, via its gentle and caring features, exposes the monster to the workings of love and beneficial human interactions.

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After Agatha, the monster learns from another female called Safie. Safie, who travels from Arabia to the cottagers' needs to be taught how to communicate in English (Haddad). Safie's English lessons are therefore taken by the monster too as he continuously studies the happy household. Therefore, due to an inactive female character, the monster undergoes his first scholastic training:

"My days were spent in close attention . . . and I may boast that I improved more rapidly than the Arabian . . . I could imitate almost every word that was spoken . . . I also learned the science of letters" (Shelley 99).

Theme 2

Male characters display a detachment from domestic matters and in its place, possess an obsessive single-mindedness in the pursuit of their goals.

The abnormal methods by which the monster came to being and its later experiences point to the basic and important role of females in the British community. It equally indicates that apart from being the partners to the males, females have a crucial duty in keeping the society organized and peaceful (Haddad).

As a "calm and philosophical" man who "delighted in investigating the facts relative to the actual world" (Shelley, 66), Victor Frankenstein is a symbol of masculinity with his relaxed and intelligent nature and also his deep interest in science which is appropriate and important in the male-dominated landscape of natural philosophy. It is clear from Frankenstein's "days and nights in vaults and charnel houses" where he "lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit" (Shelley, 78) that he attained a level of focus and drive so high he could be referred to as a fanatic. All through Frankenstein's research, his social and domestic duties suffered and his admittance to how he "knew [his] silence disquieted them" (Shelley, 81) shows a level of self-centeredness in his poor relationship with his closest friends and relatives.

Theme 3

Female gender roles as bulwarks of the social order

The major question the novel poses is if it was the abnormality of the process which created the monster or the abscondment of Frankenstein that turned it into the heartless being it became. Nevertheless, if we are to see nature….....

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Haddad, Stephanie S. "Women as the Submissive Sex in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein." Inquiries Journal (2010): 1.

Pellet, Jean-Philippe. Literary Essay on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. 21 May 2001. 11 June 2017.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein. 1818.


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